Red Chilli Hotpot
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Hotpots are incredibly popular in China, and are a specialty of the province of Sichuan. “But surely a giant copper pot of boiling spicy stock is the anithesis of what we need on a hot Sydney summer’s day!” we hear you cry. But no. The hotpot is medicinal and cooling in a weird way, and also fantastic with a cold Tsing Tao beer.
Start with a few things off the specials menu before you dive into the hotpot: cucumber spears with sweet soybean paste, maybe, or steamed pork and cabbage dumplings with vinegar. We’d probably give the shallot pancake a miss though – you'll find better examples of these in Ashfield or Chinatown.
When you order your hotpot, you'll be given the choice of spicy broth, pork broth or half and half. The half and half is the way to go – the spicy broth is scabbed with chilli and stupidly hot, while the pork broth offers relief as it’s sweeter, milder and doesn’t actually take your face off while you’re eating it. As to what you dip in the hotpot, you’ve got plenty of choices and they all come on a little wooden trolley. Try slices of beef and pork, mustard pickles, little dumplings, quail eggs and tofu.
A word of advice: don’t overcrowd your stock. The foods come frozen to be dropped into the boiling broth, and if you put too much in at the same time, you’ll cool the broth and nothing will cook. Also, everything will sink to the bottom of the dish. You have been warned.